I’m overwhelmed by joy, hope and pride as I write these words.
Yesterday, Luleki Sizwe founder Ndumie Funda delivered a petition of over 170,000 names of people from 163 countries who signed at Change.org to urge the South African government to take action against so-called ‘corrective’ rape. After a meeting between Funda, representatives from other activist groups, and senior officials at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development, an agreement was reached.
“It was a great meeting,” Funda said. “I was very impressed by the level of cooperation, they have agreed to work with us and other stakeholders and I am looking forward to a very constructive, tangible, progressive working relationship.”
“We clearly need an intervention plan,” Praise Tsidi Kambula, the ministry’s Chief Director of the Promotion of the Rights of Vulnerable Groups said, “It is our responsibility as a department to ensure that victims of ‘corrective rape report on these cases. We cannot do this thing alone. We need you guys to define for us what is needed.”
This position is a departure, and speaks volumes about the women and men who have persisted in tackling an issue so nightmarish that it’s almost – literally – unspeakable.
As a lesbian and a footballer, and as a writer, the topic burned in me. Despite a compulsion to write about ‘corrective’ rape, Football Against ‘Corrective’ Rape was one of the most difficult articles I’ve ever produced. I simply could not find the words.
It took more drafts than I care to remember, ultimately finalized only after the gentle coaxing of a friend who verbalized an idea I couldn’t bear to admit: “I can see why this is so emotional for you,” she wrote, responding to one of the drafts. “Similane* could have been you if…”
She was right, but there’s another truth here: Simelane could have been any of us. Is it not true that a violation of one of us is a violation of all of us?
In the end it was words – over 170, 000 names – that forced an ideological shift and demanded action from South Africa’s officials. Today, my heart is in Cape Town, bursting to witness the result of so many acts of courage.
“Today marked an incredible achievement, and I humble myself to the 170,000 people from all over the world who made this possible,” said Ndumie Funda. “It was about time this happened. The 14th of March will now always be a day of celebration in the history of my life.”
View photographs from the rally and meetings here.*Eudy Simelane was a member of the South African national football team. In 2008, she was raped, tortured and murdered. She died just several hundred yards from her family home.